The CLMOOC Reverberations

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Last night, I took part in a National Writing Project radio show about our summer’s Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. With my friend Paul Oh at the helm, the hour-long discussion was less about how the MOOC came to be (although NWP Program Leader Christina Cantrill and I did that) and more about how the CLMOOC experience has come to impact teachers and writing project leaders.

I did my part and then listened as Jenn Cook, of the Rhode Island Writing Project, and Michael Weller, of the Los Angeles Writing Project, and Rosie Slentz, of the Redwood Writing Project chatted about how their experiences over the summer have come to inform their teaching and their work with other teachers.

As one of the facilitators, it was not just gratifying to hear these stories on the radio broadcast; it was touching in a way that I can’t quite express here. We spent many hours planning the CLMOOC and many, many more hours helping to facilitate it. With hundreds of teachers involved, we knew folks were engaged in our Make Cycles. And I suppose we assumed that there would be some residual benefits after the summer ended.

But here, Jenn and Michael and Rosie brought to light stories of those experiences, and with Paul’s masterful questions, we come to see how CLMOOC continues to live on in spirit. Not that it wasn’t an interesting enough experiment, but hearing personal stories really does bring the whole adventure of the MOOC back to life, and — not to get too sappy — warmed my heart as I listened. I suspect my co-facilitators would say the same thing. The MOOC had an impact. We sort of knew it but to hear it makes that observation real.

And of course, we want others to remake and remix our MOOC.

Peace (in the appreciation),


DLMOOC: Academic Mindsets and Open Connections

I’m working to get back into the mix of the Deeper Learning MOOC, after having a slight detour away from it, and the topic has shifted to Academic Mindsets. The chart above from DLMOOC shows a bit of the thinking in relation to what the term means around how we view ourselves and our work within the academic sphere.

I’m all for stepping back and thinking of how we teach and what and where we teach through these lens although (and here I will use the old teacher complaint) the reality is that most of us struggle with the time to actually do that and see this kind of inquiry as a luxury at odds with the typical day. With lesson planning, communicating with parents, navigating shifting curriculum standards, enrichment/intervention, interactions with administration, and more, taking a breath to think through academic mindsets often feels like something easily put to the side in the “now” of the teaching moment that require immediate attention. I appreciate the DLMOOC has not quite forced me, but given me an opportunity, to mull the concept of academic mindsets over. I’m not done thinking yet, either. Consider this post just a marker for now.

The DLMOOC Tweet of the Week asked us to share a thought about this and to give an example in our own professional lives of this concept. Here’s what I wrote:

I have also begun to watch some of the archived discussions on a tool called Zaption, which creates a “tour” of longer videos (so, curated video segments). I like the tool but wish I could add my own thoughts and comments, and felt like I was not part of the conversation. It’s funny how much I now expect that — that I can be part of the conversation. That’s part of my own mindset, I suppose, as a learner myself and as a teacher. I anticipate entry points and get disappointed when they are not available.

The video I have been watching is about Academic Mindsets and the Common Core, (with Camille Farrington, Eduardo Briceño, Carissa Romero, and Rob Riordan) and where those ideas might mesh (or not). The main element of the discussions was about assessment and competencies of students over time. The majority of the speakers here seem strongly supportive of the Common Core in connections to nurturing mindsets of students. I don’t know. I see some openings for deeper learning but wonder about how the standards are being integrated and how the standardized testing will assess it. We can talk again after PARCC and Smarter Balance have been rolled out and we see what’s in there.

I appreciate the discussions around writing, however, and the theme of “purpose” of learning for the individual student and away from the purpose of standardized testing data points. The last speaker in the video provided some realistic balance, for me, about how to frame learning in the Common Core era, as we move from the hypothetical learning space to the real classrooms.

What this discussion around Academic Mindsets comes down to for me is … does the place where I teach my sixth graders every day still enrich my academic mindset and is the environment such that it continues to challenge me as a professional? Are there structures and supports in place for that kind of growth? For the most part, I give a qualified “yes” on that question, but I also realize how much I turn to outside elements (the National Writing Project, online spaces, etc.) for those kinds of opportunities. I suspect that if I did not have those places to turn, I might think differently, and might view my teaching career differently, too.

Peace (in the set of mind),


20 Steps Around the School

Yesterday’s Daily Create was to create a “20 Steps” video — in which you record your location, take 20 steps, record your location, take 20 steps …. 20 times. I walked around my school yesterday morning, using a shot of my feet as an anchor for my shots. As I noted on Twitter, this sort of video fits nicely with the #walkmyworld project, too.

Peace (in the documentation),

Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk is another amusingly, bizarre book by Neil Gaiman that was such the perfect read-aloud on our wintry day that we are tempted to read it again (although I think my son and wife might save it for their boys’ book club). A fast-paced, quirky adventure in which a dad goes out to get the milk and returns with a whopper of a story involving aliens, volcanoes, hot air balloons and time traveling nonsense that will have your head spinning. (in a good way).

Coupled with fun illustration, Fortunately, the Milk is a riot. Not very deep in terms of characters or plot, perhaps, but still a rollicking adventure. I also thought it interesting how Gaiman and the publisher used font sizes and styles to denote parts of the story as the narrative moves in and out of the present (kids talking to dad) to the past (the story that dad tells), and the ending reminded me a bit of that last scene in The Usual Suspects but that’s all I will say.

On a day when snow was falling and my son and I were cuddled up on the couch, we were fortunate to have Fortunately, the Milk handy and my admiration of Gaiman as a writer continues to grow.

Peace (in the tale),

Wednesday is a Poem

I’m having some fun with a form of poetry shared by a friend (Ron) via Twitter. It’s an eleven word poem, so I created the #11poem hashtag and we have both been writing and sharing a poem for every day of the week (since Monday.) Here is what I wrote this morning:

The poem is in Notegraphy, which gives words a nice visual space in which to hang out.

The form of the #11poem is simple and according to Ron, it has roots in Dutch literary origins:

One word
Two words
Three words
Four words
One word

And we are both podcasting, too, in hopes that we will combine voices (with others, we hope) later on.

Peace (in the poem),


Slice of Life: Slotting Quarters the Vintage Arcade

(This is for Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers. Come join us in writing a Slice of Life every day for the month of March. You will be part of a large and growing community of teachers-as-writers. We also use the #sol14 hashtag on Twitter. Plus, there are prizes for the Slice of Life challenge.)


A new place opened up not far from our house, a small restaurant that is packed to the gills with vintage arcade games of yore. Asteroids, Space Invaders, Lunar Command, Joust,  Centipede Burger Time, 1942 and more are all on display around the walls of this place. Ironically, though, there is no Pac Man or Donkey Kong. So, my sons and I broke into our piggy bank (yes, we have one), stuffed a bunch of quarters into our pockets, and made our way to the new place to check it out. It’s called … Quarters.

It’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, just as you might suspect. But it was mobbed, with parents (OK, mostly fathers) and kids, stuffing coins into slots and playing games with graphics that have to make you laugh. These are not your kids’ video games. These are old consoles, and yet, there is some nostalgic appeal to them. I remember hours in arcades during the summer, at the bowling alley or at my grandmother’s pool in New York City, playing many of these same machines.

My 13 year old son and I had a tournament of sorts with Asteroids, playing multiple games in order to get our name on the winner board. We succeeded (and I scored higher than he did — high five for the old man). These games are a lot harder to play than they seem, and you quickly understand some of the ingenuity that went into their creation with the limited computer power and graphics of the time.

As we were leaving, a few quarters lighter than when we arrived, he turned to me, and said, “I bet this is from a bunch of guys who just love video games and had these in their basements.”

He’s probably right.

Peace (in the play),

PS — you can also play a lot of these games online now. Check out Classic Arcade Games. Or check out Microsoft’s site for Atari Arcade.

Walk My World Interactive Text

Walkmyworld IF Map
I’ve been trying to stretch the ideas of “walking my world” with different media, as part of the #walkmyworld project, mostly in hopes that others in the venture (connected through Twitter, mostly, and through Ian and Greg’s posts) might also move beyond the sharing of images and into the sharing of ideas with poetry, writing and other forms of media.

Here’s another way. I am diving back into Interactive Fiction, mostly because in the coming weeks or so, I will having my students reading and making interactive texts. We use a free program called Twine, and so yesterday,  I went into Twine to craft this text about walking our worlds. I then host the stories in Google Drive. The image above is the story map that is created: notice all the connections and the nodes of story. The challenge is to make it all connect in a meaningful way.

There are also two design choices in Twine. I chose one in which the story unfolds on a single page, but I am uncertain if the other choice — where each link brings you to an individual page — might be better. It’s something I am still mulling over. I might share out the other version some other day.

Head to the story itself and play around with it.

Notice how I tried to use small poems as part of the overall story, and make the choices along lines of thinking. Or at least, that’s what I was trying to do. Come walk the world.

Peace (in the IF),

Getting the Ball Bouncing: An Animation Experiment

I was playing around with an iPad animation app the other day, bouncing a ball around a screen, when I suddenly was struck by the idea of having the ball get “passed off” from one screen to another. It dawned on me that I might be able to do that with the PicPlayPost app, which allows you to layer in multiple videos as a collage of sorts.

So, I got to work (eh, play) and began building a few videos of balls moving around a screen. When I was done, though, I didn’t like the way it looked or worked. I was having trouble connecting one video to another, and the screens were fairly empty. I killed the project. The next morning, I realized how I could still salvage the idea. One of the things that the screens needed were some obstacles (themed around a pinball machine, and the game of Pong, and a spiral, etc.)

But unlike my first attempt, I realized I needed to plan it out on paper. I needed to “see” the project as a whole, not as parts. I needed a guide because when you start working with multiple videos, thing get confusing very quickly.

Get the Ball Bouncing: The Plan

Now, with a blueprint, I went back into the app and got to work. I created five little videos, paying attention to where the ball began and where the ball ended up (as part of the visual “passing off” of the ball from screen to screen). It worked as I wanted it to except for one of the videos, where PicPlayPost cut off a side in the collage, and I could not figure out how to fix is. That’s why there is a slight delay in the upper right video. The ball is bouncing. You just can’t see it.

I added music to the video in YouTube itself, which is a convenient tool to have available for this kind of animation, which would fall flat if it were silent. I’m still tinkering around with the collage, to see if I can’t fix that problem of the cut video. But for now, this what I got.

Peace (in having a ball),